If this is an “Inception” inspired dream, James Reimer is going to be one angry guy. Â But who’s kidding, Christopher Nolan is tied up on other projects, and even more of a stretch would be to see the happy-go-lucky Reimer mad.
Although I’m not sure he’s even had to time to sit down, lean back, and take in everything he has accomplished this past season, James Reimer is on a whirlwind tour through the land of hockey, picking up fans and supporters along the way.
Starting the year as a goalie who was to be battling Jussi Rynnas for playing time on the Toronto Marlies, injuries allowed Reimer, a Maple Leafs 2006 draft pick, to be called up a littler sooner than expected. Â For Reimer, and the Maple Leafs, the once impractical situation turned out to be one of the biggest roster moves the club would make.
While the Maple Leafs teams in the post-lockout NHL haven’t exactly been laced with talented skater, they also never had a goaltender who could steal them games the way Ed Belfour and Curtis Joseph before him were able to do. Â A revolving door of goalies that included Vesa Toskala, Scott Clemmensen, J.S. Aubin, Martin Gerber, and Curtis Joseph (again) among others proved to be unable to step up to the task and gives the Maple Leafs a fighting chance between the pipes.
Reimer was called up to the Maple Leafs on January 23rd after injuries and inconsistent play from both J.S. Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson opened the door. Â The fact that the play of the Maple Leafs improved dramatically around this time isn’t a coincidence, a fact that isn’t lost on Maple Leafs fans.
Reimer instantly gave the team competitive goaltending, providing many nights where it was easy to find a highlight reel worthy save or two. Â His play in the net, along with his presence and mere positive attitude buoyed the Leafs into a drive towards the eighth and final playoff spot. Â Reimer and the Maple Leafs would fall short, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort from the club, and it most certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort from Reimer.
He finished the season with the Maple Leafs 20-10-5, producing a sparking .921 save percentage, and a goals against average of 2.60. Â He also threw three shutouts on top of those stats for good measure.
Following the conclusion of the NHL’s regular season, one that saw the Maple Leafs on the outside of the playoff picture looking in once again, Reimer was invited to the World Hockey Championships. Â Eagerly and excitedly, the only way he seems to know how to do things, Reimer donned the Red and White maple leaf, and has continued his consistent play on the international stage.
Though he is scheduled to give way to backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier today, Reimer has played very well for Canada in this tournament, posting a .920 save percentage and a 2.04 goals against. Â He has taken the same level of play from his stretch run with the Leafs and simply continued it with Canada, writing a second act to what is seemingly an already impressive hollywood style script.
While he hasn’t always been the busiest goaltender in the tournament, Reimer continues to be prepared when called upon to make the key save for his team, as was evident by his perfect two save performance in yesterday’s shootout against the United States, which Canada won to earn the win against their cross-border rivals.
After his stint for Canada at the Worlds, the next step for Reimer is to prepare for next year. Â While his play in the National Hockey League since January has been impressive and tantalizing, fans of the game know full well that goalies have this ability to get hot for a season or so, only to never reach those lofty heights again.
The most recent example of course is Steve Mason, another young Canadian goalie who broke into the NHL to much fanfare with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Â And while Mason hasn’t played terribly since that rookie year, his play has been inconsistent. Â One look at his save percentage and goals against from this past season doesn’t reveal a horror story. Â But look closer and you’ll see that those stats are good enough to have him ranked 26th (save percentage) and 40th (goals against average).
There’s a lot of buzz around James Reimer right now, and a lot of hope as well. Â Hope that he can bump the sophomore slump. Â Hope that he can continue his impressive play for Canada and bring home some hardware, particularly of a certain colour. Â Hope that he can come into next year with the Leafs and continue to write this masterful tale he has weaved so far.
And by the look of the smile on his face, and the excitement in his voice, and his play on the ice, I’m not going to be the one to doubt him.
Believe it or not, Derek Harmsworth still writes for Maple Leafs Hot Stove. Â He apologizes profusely for being such a slack bag during the last few months when he was tied up with school and other things. Â He thinks the writers here have done a fantastic job lately, and while he wasn’t writing, he still visited daily. Â He looks forward to working together with those writers, and talking all things puck with the great readers of this site throughout the summer, and into the new Leafs season!
Derek can be reached by email: DerekHarmsworth@gmail.com
Derek can be found on Twitter: DerekHarmsworth